July 19, 2018

The Ins and Outs of Federal Transportation Funding: Golden's Options for Funding Our "Safe, Slow, and Quiet" Muller Plan

One of the most challenging issues in our community discussion about the beltway fight is the funding of Golden’s own Muller Plan. These “Safe, Slow, and Quiet” improvements have been a central part of our long-term strategy for protecting Golden from the beltway and from other growth in traffic on U.S. 6 and Highway 93.

The challenging reality is that we probably can’t fund these projects unless and until Golden and Jefferson County reach some kind of agreement. Why? There are only three main mechanisms for securing federal funding for transportation projects like our Muller Plan projects, and all three depend on the local jurisdictions working in collaboration.

1) Grant funding (e.g., the federal TIGER grant program under the stimulus bill). Local collaboration among jurisdictions will continue to be an implicit or explicit condition of grant funding. The only Colorado project to receive TIGER funding was the 36 Corridor project (light rail, bus rapid transit, other highway improvements), a project that has the energetic support of every impacted jurisdiction. We can always submit proposals for grant funding like this (another transportation grant program is rumored to be in the works), but we are exceedingly unlikely to actually get any of these grants without Jeffco’s support.

2) Congressionally directed funding. Earmarks are the best-known type of Congressionally-directed funding, but members of Congress have other tools for doing this as well, including “phonemarks,” directly persuading the Cabinet Secretary to support specific projects, and other legislative strategies. Even if Congress reinstates the earmark system or replaces it with something comparable (as many expect it will do), our Congressional delegation is extremely unlikely to support any sort of funding for Golden projects if Jefferson County objects to them. Conversely, they’ve been very clear that they will support us in securing funding for projects in Golden that have Jefferson County’s buy-in. None of them want to get in the middle of a disagreement between Jefferson County and Golden.

3) The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) funding process. This is the primary option. Funding through this process is based on a points system. Golden has lost points in its effort to secure funding for Highway 93 safety improvements because we didn’t have political or financial support from Jefferson County. Many communities secure project funding despite not having the highest-scoring projects, but securing funding in this way is extremely difficult if the directly impacted jurisdictions themselves object (and every one of Golden’s projects is within Jefferson County, of course). On the other hand, where we have the support of other directly impacted communities, we have been able to secure funding. Since I’ve represented Golden at DRCOG, I’ve been able to secure funding for both of the projects I went after (our initial community bus feasibility study and the Golden Bluffs Connector bicycle/pedestrian path in southern Golden) in part because I had built support from other jurisdictions. This is true for other communities as well; while some projects just score high enough outright to get funded (ours probably won’t), most projects like ours that get funded end up on the list because the proponents have built strong support among the other impacted communities. Without Jefferson County on board, we probably won’t be able to do this.

In other words, while it is theoretically possible for Golden to secure funding to implement the Golden Plan for transportation improvements, it is very difficult and unlikely if the local jurisdictions aren’t in agreement.

Just to be clear, this is only one factor in deciding whether to reach an agreement with Jefferson County. But this basic reality of transportation funding is a key reason that our options have such pronounced tradeoffs. There are some advantages to the “no agreement with Jefferson County” option, but this is one serious downside: we probably won’t be able to fund any of our “Safe, Slow, and Quiet” Muller Plan improvements.

Keeping the Beltway Out of Golden – “Get The Facts Golden” Web Site Live

I have been and remain a committed opponent of the beltway, and during my five years on City Council I’ve worked extremely hard – successfully – to keep the beltway out of Golden. I believe this is true of everyone on the City Council (and city staff as well) . . . you will find across the board a fierce commitment to protecting our community from the beltway.

Golden is at a crossroads in this multi-decade fight and we are energetically reaching out to share with everyone the options and the risks and trade-offs of each.

One important part: the brand new “Get the Facts Golden” web site. We’ve done our best to lay out the options based on the best facts and analysis, and to describe the advantages and disadvantages of each. We’ve included maps and drawings of Golden’s own “Muller Plan” for fixing transportation problems in Golden now and preventing them in the future, and maps illustrating the beltway proponents’ current proposal for a shorter “Jefferson Parkway” north of Golden. Those challenges include noise, pollution, congestion, neighborhood connections, and safety. We invite all Golden residents to ask questions – we will answer them all – and to weigh in with your views.

In addition to the web site, we’ve got four neighborhood open houses scheduled in the coming weeks. You are welcome to come to whichever one best fits your schedule.

* Southern Neighborhoods: Monday, Jan. 31, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Shelton Elementary
* Central Neighborhoods: Tuesday, Feb. 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Fossil Trace Clubhouse
* Northern Neighborhoods: Wednesday, Feb. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Mitchell Elementary
* Daytime Open House: Wednesday, Feb. 9, 1-3 p.m. at City Council Chambers

One group of Golden residents has taken a sharp position on the question of which strategy makes the most sense going forward, arguing that Golden should never reach an agreement with Jefferson County even if it means that Golden’s own traffic problems – noise, pollution, safety, neighborhood connections, and congestion – continue to worsen. This view has some advantages and disadvantages just like the other main option of trying to work out an agreement with Jefferson County. It is a legitimate view, and I respect their opinion, but their tone and approach is disappointing: they are disparaging community members who disagree with them and they are misrepresenting City Council’s own views. Our job on the City Council is to make sure everyone in the community has access to good information about both options and that everyone has a chance to weigh in, and we are following through on that responsibility.

Everyone is committed to the fight against the beltway, and our challenge now is to have a respectful community conversation about which of our options makes the most sense. I don’t expect everyone to agree – I’ve heard views from community members that span the entire range of opinions – but we will work hard to make sure everyone has good information and a fair assessment of the options.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Keeping the Beltway Out of Golden – "Get The Facts Golden" Web Site Live

I have been and remain a committed opponent of the beltway, and during my five years on City Council I’ve worked extremely hard – successfully – to keep the beltway out of Golden. I believe this is true of everyone on the City Council (and city staff as well) . . . you will find across the board a fierce commitment to protecting our community from the beltway.

Golden is at a crossroads in this multi-decade fight and we are energetically reaching out to share with everyone the options and the risks and trade-offs of each.

One important part: the brand new “Get the Facts Golden” web site. We’ve done our best to lay out the options based on the best facts and analysis, and to describe the advantages and disadvantages of each. We’ve included maps and drawings of Golden’s own “Muller Plan” for fixing transportation problems in Golden now and preventing them in the future, and maps illustrating the beltway proponents’ current proposal for a shorter “Jefferson Parkway” north of Golden. Those challenges include noise, pollution, congestion, neighborhood connections, and safety. We invite all Golden residents to ask questions – we will answer them all – and to weigh in with your views.

In addition to the web site, we’ve got four neighborhood open houses scheduled in the coming weeks. You are welcome to come to whichever one best fits your schedule.

* Southern Neighborhoods: Monday, Jan. 31, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Shelton Elementary
* Central Neighborhoods: Tuesday, Feb. 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Fossil Trace Clubhouse
* Northern Neighborhoods: Wednesday, Feb. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Mitchell Elementary
* Daytime Open House: Wednesday, Feb. 9, 1-3 p.m. at City Council Chambers

One group of Golden residents has taken a sharp position on the question of which strategy makes the most sense going forward, arguing that Golden should never reach an agreement with Jefferson County even if it means that Golden’s own traffic problems – noise, pollution, safety, neighborhood connections, and congestion – continue to worsen. This view has some advantages and disadvantages just like the other main option of trying to work out an agreement with Jefferson County. It is a legitimate view, and I respect their opinion, but their tone and approach is disappointing: they are disparaging community members who disagree with them and they are misrepresenting City Council’s own views. Our job on the City Council is to make sure everyone in the community has access to good information about both options and that everyone has a chance to weigh in, and we are following through on that responsibility.

Everyone is committed to the fight against the beltway, and our challenge now is to have a respectful community conversation about which of our options makes the most sense. I don’t expect everyone to agree – I’ve heard views from community members that span the entire range of opinions – but we will work hard to make sure everyone has good information and a fair assessment of the options.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Golden’s Two Main Options for Keeping the Beltway Out of Town

Over the next month or so, the Golden community and the Golden City Council will need to evaluate our two major options for keeping the beltway out of Golden. Each of the two options involve trade-offs and they both have pros and cons.

Option #1: Golden can continue to fight the building of the Jefferson Parkway five miles north of Golden but make no progress on fixing existing and future transportation problems on U.S. 6 and Highway 93 in town.

or

Option #2: Golden can reach an agreement with Jefferson County that allows us to begin implementing Golden’s own Muller Plan for improving City connections and protecting against traffic impacts on 6 and 93 in exchange for not suing to stop the Jefferson Parkway north of town.

Over the next couple of weeks, the city will put up a website explaining both of the options and those trade-offs so that everyone in the community can ask hard questions, kick the tires, and weigh in with your thoughts.

Here are a few questions I encourage everyone to ask about both of these options:

  1. What are the trade-offs with each option? What does Golden gain and what does Golden give up?
  2. What are the risks with each option?
  3. What are the impacts to Golden of traffic growth with or without the Jefferson Parkway, and what are the additional impacts that occur if the Jefferson Parkway is built?
  4. Regarding Option #1: if Golden sues to stop the Jefferson Parkway outside of Golden, what will it cost, what is the likelihood of Golden prevailing, and what are the consequences if we lose? When it comes to the courts, no outcome is ever certain, regardless of the strength of our case.
  5. Regarding Option #2: if Golden agrees not to sue to stop the Jefferson Parkway north of Golden and, in exchange, Golden makes progress on the Muller Plan improvements, how much does that improve transportation and neighborhood connectivity in Golden, and how much does that strengthen the City’s ability to ensure that no one ever is able to build a six- or eight-lane high-speed beltway through Golden?

I strongly encourage everyone to become informed about both of our options for trying to keep the beltway out of Golden, and about the trade-offs of both.

Golden's Two Main Options for Keeping the Beltway Out of Town

Over the next month or so, the Golden community and the Golden City Council will need to evaluate our two major options for keeping the beltway out of Golden. Each of the two options involve trade-offs and they both have pros and cons.

Option #1: Golden can continue to fight the building of the Jefferson Parkway five miles north of Golden but make no progress on fixing existing and future transportation problems on U.S. 6 and Highway 93 in town.

or

Option #2: Golden can reach an agreement with Jefferson County that allows us to begin implementing Golden’s own Muller Plan for improving City connections and protecting against traffic impacts on 6 and 93 in exchange for not suing to stop the Jefferson Parkway north of town.

Over the next couple of weeks, the city will put up a website explaining both of the options and those trade-offs so that everyone in the community can ask hard questions, kick the tires, and weigh in with your thoughts.

Here are a few questions I encourage everyone to ask about both of these options:

  1. What are the trade-offs with each option? What does Golden gain and what does Golden give up?
  2. What are the risks with each option?
  3. What are the impacts to Golden of traffic growth with or without the Jefferson Parkway, and what are the additional impacts that occur if the Jefferson Parkway is built?
  4. Regarding Option #1: if Golden sues to stop the Jefferson Parkway outside of Golden, what will it cost, what is the likelihood of Golden prevailing, and what are the consequences if we lose? When it comes to the courts, no outcome is ever certain, regardless of the strength of our case.
  5. Regarding Option #2: if Golden agrees not to sue to stop the Jefferson Parkway north of Golden and, in exchange, Golden makes progress on the Muller Plan improvements, how much does that improve transportation and neighborhood connectivity in Golden, and how much does that strengthen the City’s ability to ensure that no one ever is able to build a six- or eight-lane high-speed beltway through Golden?

I strongly encourage everyone to become informed about both of our options for trying to keep the beltway out of Golden, and about the trade-offs of both.

Keeping the Beltway Out of Golden: Neighborhood Meetings Scheduled

As part of community conversation about how best to keep the beltway out of Golden, we’ve scheduled four neighborhood open houses in late January and early February.  You’ll have a chance to review the history of Golden’s beltway fight, compare the two main options for continuing to keep the beltway out of Golden, get all your questions answered, and weigh in with your thoughts.  We’ll also have updated maps and descriptions of Golden’s community-based Muller Plan, our own plan for fixing transportation issues in Golden like noise, pollution, congestion, neighborhood connections, and safety.

  • Southern Neighborhoods: Monday, Jan. 31 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Shelton Elementary
  • Central Neighborhoods: Tuesday, Feb. 1  6:30-8:30 p.m. at Fossil Trace Clubhouse
  • Northern Neighborhoods: Wednesday, Feb. 9  6:30-8:30 p.m. at Mitchell Elementary
  • Daytime Open House: Wednesday, Feb. 9  1-3 p.m. at City Council Chambers

 

 

Potential Resolution to the Beltway Fight

The City of Golden has been fighting the idea of a new superhighway through our valley for two decades, and we’ve been very successful so far: there is no superhighway, CDOT abandoned plans to build this superhighway, and even the proponents have now scaled back their proposal to a proposed ten-mile stretch of highway well north of town. One serious downside of the fight, however (in addition to the cost to the city), has been an inability to make virtually any of the seriously needed transportation improvements within the city. We know what we want in Golden. Golden’s Muller Plan detailed how we would rebuild all of the major intersections on U.S. 6 and Highway 93 in the city and make other improvements along the 6/93 Corridor to reduce speed, reduce noise, reduce congestion, and better connect our west-side neighborhoods with the rest of Golden. But the ongoing fight over the beltway has made it impossible to make any but the most modest of these improvements.

Golden’s position has been that we would fight hard to protect our community from harm and that – at the same time – we would be open-minded about the possibility of resolving the dispute if we could reach a reasonable agreement with the beltway proponents that meets Golden’s needs. We’ve had on-and-off-again discussions with the proponents for a long time, and in recent months Jefferson County made some key concessions that gave the negotiations some traction they didn’t have earlier. I believe that the agreement we are negotiating – if and only if all the pieces come together – would be good for Golden. Why? Golden’s sole concession would be to adopt a neutral position on their plan to build a ten-mile toll highway from Highway 93 (a little north of 64th) around the east side of the Wildlife Refuge to Highway 128 which they call the Jefferson Parkway. In other words, we would no longer fight their attempts to build a highway we don’t think many people will use, five miles north of Golden, that we don’t believe will have much impact on Golden.

In exchange for this, Golden would have:

  1. An agreement with the County that codifies all of our community protection requirements (keeps noise levels down, restricts 6 and 93 to four lanes through Golden, keeps speeds at 45, dramatically improves neighborhood connectivity, etc.);
  2. Golden’s highest priority project (rebuilding the intersection at U.S. 6 and 19th using Golden’s own design) would become Congressman Perlmutter’s highest priority for federal funds (not a guarantee but it does provide a high likelihood of funding); and
  3. CDOT would buy-in to the agreement (helping ensure that they enable these projects within Golden rather than obstructing them).

In addition, Golden would retain its ability to fight against any other toll highway proposal and any attempt to impose inappropriate projects or impacts on Golden. Moreover, we could substantially reduce the amount the city spends every year on this fight and spend it on other community priorities.

A number of folks associated with CINQ are expressing a different view. They believe that stopping the proposed Jefferson Parkway is more important than making appropriate, Muller Plan-style transportation improvements within Golden. While we all share the same goal of doing what’s best for Golden, and while many of the CINQ folks have worked very hard on this beltway fight for a long time, reasonable people sometimes disagree. If I have to choose, I believe getting appropriate transportation improvements within Golden is more important than stopping the Jefferson Parkway.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t ever have to make those kinds of trade-offs between different goals. In a perfect world, Golden would be able to stop all inappropriate highway construction in and north of town and make all of the improvements we want within the city. But the reality has been that in stopping highway construction north of town (which we may or may not be able to do for much longer), we’ve also made it impossible to make any of the improvements Golden residents really want within our community. This agreement, if Jefferson County is able to meet all of Golden’s terms, seems like a reasonable way to move forward on the things Golden residents care most about (what happens within the city) while still protecting Golden from harmful impacts.

Whether we can make this agreement come together is still an open question. While Golden and Jeffco have agreed in principle, there are still quite a few details to be worked out, we would still need to nail down the commitments from Congressman Perlmutter and Governor-elect Hickenlooper, and we still need to do our thorough due diligence to make sure we haven’t missed anything and that we maintain all of our important community protections.

City Council held a special study session last week (scroll down to the November 30 special study session and click on “video”) to brief the community on the potential agreement, and we are working now on some updated information, including updated drawings showing what build-out along U.S. 6 and Highway 93 in Golden would eventually look like. I also encourage you to consider CINQ’s perspective. As of the time I’m posting this blog entry, their latest newsletter doesn’t seem to be up on their web site yet but I suspect it will go up soon. I welcome your thoughts and questions. You can post them here on this blog or send an email to citycouncil@cityofgolden.net.

Special Jefferson Parkway Negotiations Update

Last night we held a special City Council study session to brief the community on ongoing negotiations with Jefferson County, Boulder County, Arvada, Boulder, and Broomfield over the beltway and the current Jefferson Parkway proposal. We have two key goals: a) make sure nothing harmful happens in Golden; and b) start fixing the congestion, safety, and quality of life problems we currently have with U.S. 6 and Highway 93. I’ve been reporting at City Council meetings over the past six or eight months about these ongoing discussions, and recently Jefferson County has expressed a willingness to shift on some key points of contention. Just in the past couple of weeks we made some additional progress, and we didn’t want to wait until our next scheduled City Council meeting on December 9 to brief the community on all of this, so we convened the meeting last night to provide everyone with an update. I encourage you to watch the hour-long video if you are interested (it’s the November 30 “Special Study Session” in the “City Council” box).

One key piece of the solution that we’ve been negotiating is an Intergovernmental Agreement (often called an IGA) between Golden and Jeffco. It would codify the following:

  • Specific projects that Golden and Jeffco would do within the city limits and collaborating on securing funding for all of them. Basically we would do these one at a time, as we are able to secure the dollars. The projects include rebuilding all of the major intersections along U.S. 6 and 93 (in most or all cases with full overpasses and with all the pedestrian- and bike-friendly design features), making Highway 93 four lanes wide from Highway 58 to the north end of town, and realigning Highway 93 at the north end of town (moving the highway from its current alignment to the west away from Mesa Meadows and other north Golden neighborhoods).
  • Agreement on design principles for all of those projects: maximum of four lanes through Golden, noise limits, limits on vehicle speed, very pedestrian and bicycle focused . . . basically all of the design principles found in Golden’s Muller Plan.
  • Jeffco would pay for design and engineering of the first two projects: rebuilding the intersection at U.S. 6 and 19th and a combination of four-laning Highway 93 north of Highway 58 and realigning 93 at the north end of town to move it farther away from north Golden residential neighborhoods.

In other words, this agreement would codify the design principles that Golden has long sought and commit to the order in which we will actually make projects happen. It wouldn’t include every single element of the Muller Plan (e.g., the tunnel at Iowa is not included), but it would be based on all of the same design principles: dramatically reduce impact to neighborhoods (noise, pollution, etc.), dramatically improve connectivity between neighborhoods on the west side of Golden and the rest of town, and keep the traffic moving through Golden.

However, City Council doesn’t feel that this agreement alone would give us sufficient assurances that appropriate projects would actually take place and that we’d continue to be able to stop bad projects, so we insisted on two additional key elements: a commitment from CDOT and the new Governor that they will support the agreement and help us make these projects happen, and some mechanism that would give us all confidence that at least the first project will get built within a few years.

We have been discussing the issue with Governor-elect Hickenlooper, and while we don’t have a commitment yet they have been open to the idea. On the funding side, we received some really good news just yesterday: if we are able to pull all the pieces of this agreement together, Congressman Perlmutter will make our first one or two projects his highest transportation funding priority. While that obviously isn’t identical to having the dollars in hand, that sort of commitment from Congressman Perlmutter would give everyone a great deal of confidence that we’ll be able to get those dollars and build at least the first project over the next few years.

One other key element: Golden would retain our significant protections against harmful projects, including our ability to regulate any transportation projects that happen in Golden.

There would potentially be a separate agreement about open space protection near the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge in northern Jefferson County. That agreement would involve Jeffco committing to protecting all of the state property known as “Section 16” (which is a critical wildlife habitat connection) and contributing $5 million toward purchasing that property, which is probably enough to actually enable the purchase, in exchange for everyone else taking a neutral position on the Jefferson Parkway proposal. Boulder and Boulder County have taken the lead on the open space discussions and have expressed support for the concept, although they still have a lot of details to work out. Obviously, Golden wouldn’t be part of that agreement unless we have a good transportation agreement first.

In a perfect situation, there wouldn’t be a Jefferson Parkway and we’d have the $150 – $200 or so million we would need to build out all of our projects on the U.S. 6/Highway 93 corridor in Golden. But this situation isn’t perfect. While we have some leverage to potentially delay or kill the Jefferson Parkway (and we’ve been effective so far), that leverage isn’t unlimited. And no one has to my knowledge come up with a plan for funding $150 or $200 million worth of the projects we want in Golden.

Given that, while I’ve always been very clear that I’m willing to fight this out to the end to protect Golden, I’ve also been clear that I’m open to a reasonable solution that meets our own community needs. The agreement we’ve been working on would keep the beltway out of Golden, maintain strong protections against future bad projects happening in Golden, still require the Jefferson Parkway proponents to go to the market to try and finance their ten-mile toll highway between 128 and 93, and in all likelihood provide our highest priority intersection rebuild in Golden completed within a few years, substantially improving on congestion, safety, and quality of life in our community. It would also mean that the substantial dollars we currently spend on the beltway fight every year could be used for other community priorities.

This agreement that we’ve been working on obviously isn’t perfect, and I and other City Council members still have some questions and concerns we would need to work out. Some of my concerns at this point are making sure that we do everything possible to prevent the resurrection of the original superhighway-through-Golden vision, nailing down buy-in from CDOT and the Governor, and making sure that the agreement will actually produce Muller-like designs for all of those intersections.

But if we can answer those questions and pull all the pieces together, this may be a reasonable agreement that meets Golden’s needs while still providing us long-term protection against harmful projects within our community.

If we knew with certainty that we could duke it out to the very end and prevail, and that as a result we’d get everything we want – all the right projects in Golden and no more highway or other development in the open space north of town – that would probably be the right course of action. But the outcome if we duke it out to the end is very uncertain. This is the same reason, of course that everyone else is at the table – no one knows what the outcome would be if we fight this out to the end. We could win or we could lose. And even if we prevailed, we still wouldn’t have any funding at all to build any of the improvements we actually want in Golden. If we move forward with this agreement, assuming we are able to answer all of our remaining questions and concerns, our main concession is that we stop fighting to prevent the current Jefferson Parkway proposal (which is well north of Golden anyway), but in return we have an agreement about improvements in Golden that includes nearly everything we’ve asked for over the years, we end the decades-long fight that has deeply poisoned relationships across the Denver Metro region, we actually get at least one critical projects done in Golden within a few years, and we save the taxpayers the considerable amount of money we now spend every year in the beltway fight.

I and everyone else on City Council welcome your thoughts, comments, and questions (citycouncil@cityofgolden.net).

Jacob

Jacob’s Golden Update: Jackson Street Corridor Improvements and Other News

Jacob’s Golden Update: February 23, 2010

1. Jackson Street Corridor Pedestrian and Bike Improvements
2. Bachman Open Space Purchase Moves Forward
3. Improving Protections for Mobile Home Park Residents
4. Beltway Briefing
5. CSM Projects Gain City Council Approval
6. TIGER Grants Announced
7. Golden’s New Community Bus: Open House on March 2
8. Jacob’s Golden Blog Roundup
9. Other Upcoming Events
10. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, February 25
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Jacob's Golden Update: City Council Adopts Permit Parking and Other News

Jacob’s Golden Update: January 29, 2010

1. DRCOG Approves “Jefferson Parkway” Toll Highway Proposal
2. City Council Adopts Permit Parking Near CSM
3. Moving Forward With Other CSM Agreements
4. Community Bus Neighborhood Meetings
5. Planning Commission Openings: Deadline February 18
6. Talking Trash: Trash Hauling and Recycling
7. Golden Public Works Earns Top Honors
8. Smith for Golden Blog Roundup
9. Other Upcoming Events
10. Next City Council Meeting: Thursday, February 4

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